Cao Fei


5th & Victoria > AFTER DARK

Cao Fei (b. 1978, Guangzhou) is one of the most significant and innovative young artists to have emerged on the international scene from China. Her multi-media projects explore the lost dreams of the young Chinese generation and their strategies for overcoming and escaping reality. She will premiere new work in her September exhibition La Town (2014) at Lombard Freid Gallery, NY.  Cao Fei’s recent movie Haze and Fog (2013) screened at the Tate Modern, the art Institute of Chicago, collected by Pompidou Center.

Her previous online project RMB CITY (2008-2011) has been exhibited in Deutsche Guggenheim (2010), Shiseido Gallery, Tokyo, Japan (2009), Serpentine Gallery, London (2008), Yokohama Triennale (2008). I. Mirror, 52nd Venice Biennale (2007), Chinese Pavilion; RMB CITY- A Second Life City Planning has been exhibited in Istanbul Biennale (2007); Whose Utopia, TATE Liverpool (2007), Cao Fei also participated a number of international biennales, 17th & 15th Biennale of Sydney (2006/2010), Moscow Biennale (2005), Shanghai Biennale (2004),  50th Venice Biennale (2003). She also exhibited video works in Guggenheim Museum (New York), the International Center of Photography (New York), MoMA (New York), P.S.1 (New York), Palais de Tokyo (Paris), Musee d’Art Moderne de la ville de Paris (Paris), Mori Art Museum (Tokyo). Cao Fei was a nominee for the Future Generation Art Prize 2010 and was the finalist of Hugo Boss Prize 2010, and won The 2006 Best Young Artist Award by CCAA (Chinese Contemporary Art Award).

Cosplayers, 2004
8 mins

This cinematic work is an experiment that employs a surrealistic plot to give COSPLAYERS (young people dressed as game characters) the ability to traverse the city at will, and to engage in combat within their imaginary world. They expect their costumes will grant them true magical power, enabling the wearer to transcend reality and put themselves above all worldly and mundane concerns.

All COSPLAYERS are very young, with dreams in their heads, spending all their waking hours in the virtual world of video games from a very early age. Hence when they eventually grow up, they discover they are living a life style frowned upon and rejected by society and family members alike. With no channels open to express their feeling and aspirations they resort to escapism and, becoming alienated and out of touch, they turn into ever more unbecoming characters. However, in that moment when they are turned into genies, chivalrous knights, fairy princesses, or geeks, the pains of reality are assuaged, even if the “real” world they are standing on has not changed to the slightest.

Whose Utopia, 2006
20 mins

With the background of Pearl River Delta’s economic development, OSRAM Factory, as one of the new space promoters, is taking part in the process of China’s integration into the global system. On the other hand, the power of global market is penetrating the local areas by means of multi-national corporations. As a result, local economy is forced onto a global stage while young laborers from many inland provinces are entering this new international labor division.

In the Pearl River Delta area, multi-national corporation management and culture gains a new local experience. Because the majority of laborers in these corporations are new emi-grants from inland China, oversea companies and Chinese workers form a new assembly under the globalization, a new type of social relationship and social form. Hence, a swift 
reform of culture, capital and labor is progressing in the Pearl River Delta with the multi-national enterprise capital flow and cross-provincial population flow.

The “Utopia” project plans to explore the life of these emigrant factory workers in the Pearl River Delta who represent the “backup force” for China’s competitiveness in a global economy and how they achieve a totally new experience, new standard and new meaning in the overwhelming trend of globalization. This project therefore allows us to see how they light up their “Utopia” in a new reality. Their utopia further exemplifies how the wider and wider globalization is reshaping the Pearl Delta River area, and even the whole China. Their utopia is also my utopia, and the utopia of many more with hopes. I hope utopia will stop to be an ideal and will one day turn into reality.


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